The Genbi Shinkansen: Japan’s newest bullet train is the world’s fastest gallery, packed with contemporary art inside and out

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RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

From an engineering standpoint, Japan’s famed Shinkansen is already a work of art. Recently, though, the country’s bullet trains have been putting a renewed effort into their appearance, taking inspiration from centuries-old tradition and science-fiction anime.

The latest Shinkansen to be unveiled, though, incorporates design cues more modern than tatami reed floors yet not as futuristic as giant robots. Instead, it’s envisioned as a travelling gallery of contemporary art, allowing for what operator East Japan Railways calls “the world’s fastest art appreciation.”

A special train needs a special name, and the new Shinkansen has been christened Genbi, combining the kanji gen (), meaning “contemporary,” and bi (), “beauty.” The Genbi Shinkansen will run along the Joetsu Shinkansen line between Niigata and Echigo Yuzawa Stations in Niigata Prefecture.

▼ Fittingly, the kanji used in the Genbi Shinkansen’s logo are heavily stylized.

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Seven of the carriages will be used as art exhibition spaces, with different painters, sculptors, and visual creators represented in each. The contributing artists have been announced as Nao Matsumoto, Yusuke Komuta, Kentaro Kobuke, Naoki Ishikawa, Haruaka Kojin, and Brian Alfred.

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If you’d like your sense of taste to be stimulated along with your sight, there’s also a cafe. On the menu you’ll find sweets made with rice flour from Niigata’s prized (and pricy) Uonuma-grown Koshihikari rice and butter from dairies on Sadogashima Island.

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And it’s not like only passengers inside the train will have something pretty to look at, either. The non-windowed side of the Genbi Shinkansen’s exterior is covered with colorful photographs of Niigata’s Nagaoka Fireworks Festival, one of the largest in Japan, taken by photographer Mika Ninagawa.

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The Genbi Shinkansen goes into service next spring.

Seven cool things set to happen in Japan during 2015

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RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that you should always wash your hands after going to the bathroom. If there’re two things we know, though, the second is that you’ll never get anywhere in life being fixated on the past. So while 2014 was a pretty good year for us, we’re already looking to the year ahead, which is already promising seven cool happenings for Japan in 2015.

1. Opening of the new Shinkansen line

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Japan may have a reasonably priced overnight bus network and well-maintained highways, but there’s no denying that the quickest and most convenient way to get around the country is the Shinkansen. Currently, you can travel by bullet train from Tokyo to Nagano, but the new Hokuriku Line will allow travelers to extend their Shinkansen trips from Nagano all the way to coastal Kanazawa. So starting March 14, you’ll be able to zip on over to the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture in record time to enjoy its historic Kenrokuen Garden, delicious seafood, and, provided you’ve still got some yen left over, golden handicrafts.

2. First flight of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet

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If tertiary travel is too tedious for your rarified tastes, there’s also the maiden voyage of the MRJ coming up in 2015. Jointly developed by Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Fuji Heavy Industries (parent company of automaker Subaru), the MRJ is scheduled to take to the air for the first time this spring. Airlines won’t be receiving their own until 2017, but nonetheless, the upcoming test flight is a major step towards Japan’s first domestically produced airliner since the financial failure of Nihon Aircraft Manufacturing’s YS-11, which was discontinued over four decades ago.

3. Osaka’s Dotonbori Canal becomes a pool

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If you’ve spent much time looking at photos of Japanese cityscapes, odds are you’ve seen Dotonbori, Osaka’s neon-lit entertainment district that straddles the Dotonbori Canal. After years of revelers diving into the water after victories by the local Hanshin Tigers baseball team, someone decided they may as well make part of the canal into an outdoor pool, which is just what’s scheduled to happen to a one-kilometer (0.62-mile) section of it for four weeks in August of 2015.

4. The next, and possibly final, Evangelion movie

Creator Hideaki Anno has never been particularly decisive about putting a period on his masterwork, as evidenced by how Eva’s cash-strapped TV finale has already been followed by a half-dozen movies. Signs point to a late 2015 release for the fourth Rebuild of Evangelion theatrical feature, though, which has been billed as the culmination of 20 years’ worth of groundbreaking animation (those of you who can’t wait until the end of the year can whet your appetite with a teaser-style Eva short film right here).

5. So long, SIM locks!

Like topknots and the feudal system, SIM locks are set to become a thing of the past in Japan starting this May.

6. The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II

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2015 is also a good time to stop and take a moment to appreciate that Japan can get excited about developments in consumer electronics because it’s a country at peace, as it has been for the last 70 years.

7. Prince William visiting Japan

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Another thing that wouldn’t have been happening during open war between the U.K. and Japan, Prince William is scheduled to visit the country as part of a trip through Asia in late February.

The 11 Cat Islands of Japan

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RocketNews 24:

In the never-ending debate as to whether cats or dogs are the superior animal, it’s pretty safe to say felines have the edge as far as tranquility is concerned. For example, an island full of stray dogs is likely to be visited by animal control, whereas an island covered in cats instead gets visited by tons of tourists.

This ability to live in general harmony with the human population means that Japan is filled with places that have earned the nicknameNekojima,” or “Cat Island.”Today, we take a whirlwind photo tour of 11 of them.

 

1. Enoshima, Kanagawa Prefecture
Closest station: Katase Enoshima

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For residents and visitors to Tokyo, the closest isle worthy of the Cat Island designation lies in Kanagawa Prefecture, the capital’s neighbor to the south. Enoshima, which can be walked onto from a bridge across the street from Katase Enoshima Station, is most famous for its shrine located inside a cave and the connected legend of a dragon that fell in love with a beautiful maiden. The area’s beaches also make it a popular summertime destination for surfers, sunbathers, and partiers.

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Stop by Enoshima on an offseason weekday afternoon, though and you’re likely to run into as many cats as people as you stroll up the path that winds to the top of the island.

2. Okishima, Shiga Prefecture
Nearest port: Horikiri

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Not every Nekojima is on the ocean, though, as Okishima is actually a floating island in the middle of Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater depository in Japan. With just 350 residents, the fishing community is small enough that bicycles are the main mode of transportation on the island, meaning its feline inhabitants to live without fear f being hit by a car.

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3. Sanagishima, Kagawa Prefecture
Nearest port: Tadotsu

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This is the one of several Cat Islands located in the Inland Sea, which is dotted with fishing settlements and blessed with a temperate climate. Sanagishima lies of the coast of Kagawa, Japan’s smallest prefecture which makes up the northeast corner of the island of Shikoku.

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4. Aoshima, Ehime Prefecture
Nearest port: Nagahama

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Moving west, we come to Ehime Prefecture, which is also a part of Shikoku. Aoshima might be the most sparsely populated of Japan’s Cat Islands, with just 15 permanent residents compared to several times as many felines.

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This is strictly a day-trip destination, though. The advanced age of most of the community’s members mean that on Aoshima you won’t be able to find a hotel to spend the night, a restaurant to have dinner in, or, shockingly for Japan, even a vending machine to buy a drink from (make sure to stock up on supplies before you get on the boat).

 

5. Muzukijima, Ehime Prefecture

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While many Cat Islands are home to fishing communities, Muzukijima instead is covered with citrus groves, keeping with Ehime’s popular image as growing the best oranges in Japan.

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6. Manabeshima, Okayama Prefecture
Closest port: Kasaoka

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31 kilometers (19 miles) off the coast of Japan’s main island of Honshu, Manabeshima’s isolation has helped preserve its natural beauty, which along with its warm climate has made the island a historically popular choice for film crews (and, yes, cats).

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7. Iwaishima, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Nearest port: Yanai

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Our last stop in the Inland Sea, visitors arrive at Iwaishima at the end of a stretch of island hopping that begins at the port in the historic town of Yanai.

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8. Aijima Fukuoka Prefecture
Nearest port: Kokura

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Moving to the country’s opposite coastline, we come to Aijima, on the Sea of Japan. Aijima is one of the easiest Cat Islands for busy travelers to get to, as the Shinkansen bullet train stops just a few minutes’ walk from where visitors can catch a boat at Kokura Port.

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9. Aishima, Fukuoka Prefecture
Nearest port: Shingu

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Also in Fukuoka, the name of vaguely heart-shaped Aishima is, sadly, not written with the same kanji character as ai, or “love.” Nonetheless, the island’s romantic geography does seem to be having an influence on its feline population, if these photos taken there are anything to go by.

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10. Genkaishima, Fukuoka Prefecture
Nearest port: Hakata

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Another easy to access Cat Island, Genkaishima can be reached from Hakata Port, which is located in Fukuoka City the prefectural capital and largest city in the region.

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Genkaishima was home to Japan’s largest island-based cat population until the community was hit hard by an earthquake in 2005, although its number of felines is now said to be on the rise once again.

 

11. Kadarashima, Saga Prefecture
Nearest port: Yobuko

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Finally, we come to Kadarashima. Legend holds that long ago, a dog earned the wrath of the deity of the Kadarashima’s Yasakajinja Shrine, and the species was driven from the island, which today is completely absent of canines.

With their bitter rivals gone, will the local cats be able to redirect their energies into unlocking their true mental, and, dare we say it, cultural potential? Could Kadarashima be the starting point of a new phase of feline evolution, where cats learn from, and begin to emulate, their human neighbors, such as the elderly gentleman pictured above?

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Prince William meets tsunami survivors in Miyagi

Japan Times:

Britain’s Prince William stood atop a hill Sunday in Miyagi Prefecture, stretched below him barren land known as the “Bay of Destruction,” where a tsunami swept ashore four years ago.

On the last leg of his four-day visit to Japan, William laid a bouquet near a shrine gate that overlooks the bay to commemorate the victims. Of the nearly 19,000 people who died in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, nearly 3,300 were residents of the coastal town of Ishinomaki. About 22,000 lost their homes.

The tragedy of Ishinomaki has been repeated across the shoreline, where communities are still trying to rebuild, mourning lost lives and worried about the future, as the younger generation leaves in droves. Thousands of people are still living in temporary housing and many are dependent on aid for food and clothing.

William, who earlier visited more lively and modern spots in Tokyo, had insisted that his first ever trip to Japan include the tsunami-stricken region.

Teruko Sekiguchi, a 42-year-old housewife and Ishinomaki resident, waited for the prince’s arrival on top of the hill in the cold rain for more than hour. She was touched he would come all the way out to the disaster region.

He is gorgeous. You can feel his kindness,” she said.

When the tsunami hit, Sekiguchi fled to a nearby junior high school and waited for a week, feeling miserable, not even knowing whether her husband, a schoolteacher, had survived. When he finally came to find her, she was so overjoyed she just cried and couldn’t even walk toward him, she recalled. Although the area below the hill, previously filled with small homes, has been cleaned of debris, no one will live there again. Plans are still being studied to turn it into a park.

It’s like the area has been finally cleaned up enough into a white canvas so we can start painting on it,” said Kimio Abe, who heads his own company installing heating and air conditioning.

Abe was also among the crowd of about 80 people waiting on hilltop for the prince. Abe’s home, near the hill, was also half destroyed by the tsunami, but he fixed it up and still lives in one room with his wife.

Earlier in the day, William visited a local newspaper, which had produced handwritten newsletters right after the tsunami to keep communication going.

William wanted to know what the journalists had done, what the rescue operations was like, as well as the personal background of Hiroyuki Takeuchi, a journalist at the Ishinomaki Hibi newspaper.

It remains with you forever. You remember where you were. It must have been unbelievably terrifying for you and all the others,” William told Takeuchi.

Akemi Solloway, founder of the London-based Aid for Japan, which supports tsunami orphans, said William’s visit will not only provide a morale boost for the residents, but also reassurance that their plight has not been forgotten and renewed international awareness of their daily struggles.

William later went to another tsunami-hit coastal town, Onagawa, welcomed by a traditional lion dance to the cheerful music of wooden flutes and drums.

At a shopping area that sold local goods by storekeepers trying to turn their lives around, he rang a bell that survived the tsunami, called the “Chime of Hope.”

The prince met a couple whose children died in the tsunami. He offered them his sympathy and said that he, too, had lost a member of his family in a tragic way, NHK reported. Local children presented him with a paper crane at Hiyoriyama Park in Ishinomaki.

William returned by bullet train to Tokyo and later Sunday left on a visit to Beijing.

William will leave Japan for China on Sunday night.

How the Shinkansen bullet train made Tokyo into the monster it is today

Shinkansen bullet trains at a depot in Fukuoka in 1975.

 

The Guardian:

 

At 10am on 1 October 1964, with less than a week and a half to go before the start of the Tokyo Olympic Games, the two inaugural Hikari Super Express Shinkansen, or “bullet trains,” arrived at their destinations, Tokyo and Osaka. They were precisely on time. Hundreds of people had waited overnight in each terminal to witness this historic event, which, like the Olympics, heralded not just Japan’s recovery from the destruction of the second world war, but the beginning of what would be Japan’s stratospheric rise as an economic superpower. The journey between Japan’s two biggest cities by train had previously taken close to seven hours. The Shinkansen had made the trip in four.

The world’s first high-speed commercial train line, which celebrates its 50th anniversary on Wednesday, was built along the Tokaido, one of the five routes that connected the Japanese hinterland to Edo, the city that in the mid-1800s became Tokyo. Though train lines crisscrossed the country, they were inadequate to postwar Japan’s newborn ambitions. The term “shinkansen” literally means “new trunk line”: symbolically, it lay at the very centre of the huge reconstruction effort. All previous railways were designed to serve regions. The purpose of the Tokaido Shinkansen, true to its name, was to bring people to the capital.

 

A couple say goodbye as he leaves on the Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo.

A couple say goodbye as he leaves on the Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo.

After the war Tokyo was in ruins, but its rebuilding progressed without any master plan. As industries gravitated to the city, young people flocked to Tokyo to work; and as they started families they were encouraged to buy homes. The only land they could afford, however, was outside the already densely populated city. Property prices skyrocketed in the 1970s, and even more during the “bubble era” of the 1980s, forcing newer families even further from the city centre. Tokyo swelled to elephantine proportions. The Greater Tokyo Metropolitan Area, composed of four prefectures, became the world’s pre-eminent megalopolis – some 35 million people by 2010, or 27% of Japan’s total population. It isn’t unusual for commuters to spend two hours getting to work every day on trains that exceed 150% of capacity.

This “rush hour hell” has been made famous worldwide by images of station employees stuffing stragglers into packed train cars – potent symbols of the superhuman forbearance of the Japanese worker, but also the dogged efficiency of Japan’s railways. All foreign visitors to Japan invariably ride the trains and come away with the same impression: Japan’s public transportation is the cleanest, most courteous in the world, run by uniformed, be-gloved men and women who still epitomise a hallowed Japanese work ethic that most companies struggle to maintain in an economy that has remained sluggish for two decades.

 

Prince Hiro on board a Shinkansen bullet train  in 1968.

Crown prince Naruhito on board a Shinkansen bullet train in 1968.

But the most vital aspect of this efficiency is that trains run on time, all the time. This is not just a point of pride. It is a necessity, given the huge number of people that have to be moved. Transfers are timed to the split second, and the slightest delay has the butterfly effect of delaying connections. The Shinkansen is no exception, as exemplified by the “angels”: teams of pink-attired women who descend on a train as soon as it arrives at its terminal and in five minutes leave it spotless for the return trip.

The first Shinkansen skirted the Pacific coast through the huge industrial corridor that links the capital with Osaka. This is a nearly unbroken stretch of urbanisation: it has few parallels on the planet. By the early 1950s the conventional train that ran on this route was crammed. Taking a hint from the private Odakyu Electric Railway, which launched a train that could reach speeds of 145km/hr, Japan National Railways (JNR) decided to develop an even faster train, and in April 1959 construction of the Tokaido Shinkansen commenced with an initial budget of ¥200bn (£1.1bn), though the eventual cost would be double that.

The high-speed network now reaches all the way west to the island of Kyushu and north to Akita, at the northern tip of the main island, Honshu. Next March, the Hokuriku Shinkansen will be extended to Kanazawa near the Japan Sea; there are plans to build a new line connecting Honshu to the northernmost island of Hokkaido. Each line is under the authority of one of four JR (Japan Railways) companies that formed when JNR was privatised in 1987. But the central government has overseen the construction of all new Shinkansen lines, usually covering 35% of the cost (JR companies pay 50% and local governments 15%). That means the construction ministry makes the relevant decisions about where lines go, or which cities get stations.

 

 

In an interview in the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper last week, Takashi Hara, a political scholar and expert on Japanese railroads, said the policy of extending the Shinkansen was promulgated by Kakuei Tanaka, Japan’s prime minister from 1972 to 1974. “The purpose was to connect regional areas to Tokyo,” Hara said. “And that led to the current situation of a national Shinkansen network, which completely changed the face of Japan. Travel times were shortened and vibration was alleviated, making it possible for more convenient business and pleasure trips, but I have to say that the project just made all the [connecting] cities part of Tokyo.”

And where the Shinkansen’s long tentacles go, other services shrivel. Local governments in Japan rely heavily on the central government for funds and public works – it’s how the central government keeps them in line. Politicians actively court high-speed railways since they believe they attract money, jobs and tourists. In the early 1990s, a new Shinkansen was built to connect Tokyo to Nagano, host of the 1998 Winter Olympics. The train ran along a similar route as the Shinetsu Honsen, one of the most romanticised railroads in Japan, beloved of train buffs the world over for its amazing scenery – but also considered redundant by operators JR East because, as with almost all rural train lines in Japan, it lost money. There were only two profitable stations on the line – Nagano and the resort community of Karuizawa – and both would be served by the new Shinkansen. A large portion of the Shinetsu Honsen closed down; local residents who relied on it had to use cars or buses.

Meanwhile, the bullet train has sucked the country’s workforce into Tokyo, rendering an increasingly huge part of the country little more than a bedroom community for the capital. One reason for this is a quirk of Japan’s famously paternalistic corporations: namely, employers pay their workers’ commuting costs. Tax authorities don’t consider it income if it’s less than ¥100,000 a month – so Shinkansen commutes of up to two hours don’t sound so bad. New housing subdivisions filled with Tokyo salarymen subsequently sprang up along the Nagano Shinkansen route and established Shinkansen lines, bringing more people from further away into the capital.

 

A Marunouchi Shinkansen bullet train passes through central Tokyo.
A Shinkansen bullet train passes through central Tokyo.

The Shinkansen’s focus on Tokyo, and the subsequent emphasis on profitability over service, has also accelerated flight from the countryside. It’s often easier to get from a regional capital to Tokyo than to the nearest neighbouring city. Except for sections of the Tohoku Shinkansen, which serves northeastern Japan, local train lines don’t always accommodate Shinkansen rolling stock, so there are often no direct transfer points between local lines and Shinkansen lines. The Tokaido Shinkansen alone now operates 323 trains a day, taking 140 million fares a year, dwarfing local lines. This has had a crucial effect on the physical shape of the city. As a result of this funnelling, Tokyo is becoming even denser and more vertical – not just upward, but downward. With more Shinkansen passengers coming into the capital, JR East has to dig ever deeper under Tokyo Station to create more platforms.

Deepest of all is the new Tokyo terminal for the latest incarnation of the bullet train – the maglev, or Chuo (“central”) Shinkansen, which is supposed to connect Tokyo to Nagoya by 2027 and is being built 40m underground. The maglev is the next technological stage in the evolution of high-speed rail travel. It is meant to be a morale booster for Japan’s railway industry, which no longer boasts the fastest trains or the biggest ridership in the world, distinctions that now belong to Japan’s huge neighbour to the west.

 

A passenger in traditional dress on board a Japanese hikari shinkansen bullet train in 1965.

A passenger in traditional dress on board a Japanese Hikari Shinkansen bullet train in 1965. 

 

It is being built by JR Tokai, the company that runs the original super-profitable Tokaido Shinkansen, though experts assume the central government will eventually have to contribute money due to snowballing costs. The Chuo Shinkansen will cut the time it takes to get to Nagoya to 40 minutes, theoretically putting the central Japanese capital within commuting distance of Tokyo – in much the same way that the proposed HS2 will make Birmingham a bedroom community of London. “The Chuo Shinkansen will make Nagoya feel like a suburb of Tokyo,” said Hara.

If you have any doubt about that, consider that the maglev – short for “magnetic-levitation”, and known in Japanese as “linear motor car” – has to move in as straight and as level a line as possible in order to reach the speeds that will make it the fastest train on Earth. But since Japan’s topography is mostly mountainous, 86% of the journey will be underground. (The technology probably makes more sense on a flat, open terrain, and JR Tokai is trying to sell it abroad.) In other words, the maglev will essentially be a very long subway ride. Certainly few tourists will find it appealing.

Plans are to extend the maglev to Osaka by 2045, by which time potential ridership will have declined by a third, due to Japan’s shrinking population and more efficient air travel due to new regional airports. The Shinkansen is expensive; with the rise of low-cost carriers, any train trip that takes more than two hours from Tokyo is less cost-effective than flying. The development of the Shinkansen can’t be separated from geography. China’s faster, vaster high-speed rail service isn’t all focused on Beijing, because the country itself is huge; in Japan, however, until recently the Shinkansen was the best way to get to Tokyo from almost anywhere. Like the first Shinkansen, the maglev is a national project, even if the central government hasn’t spent any money on it (yet), but national priorities aren’t as clear as they were in the 1950s. Tokyo can’t get any bigger. Other areas of Japan are barely hanging on. Japan’s high-speed rail system may end up being the victim of its own success.

Link

30 common characteristics of people who fall in love with Japan

 

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RocketNews 24:

 

Chances are since you’re visiting our site, you probably already have an interest in Japan or other Asian countries. But have you ever had a friend who knows next to nothing about Japan, but you just have a feeling that they would come to love the island country given the right incentive?

If so, you may recognize some characteristic qualities of that friend in the following list written by Japanese blogger and all-around-life expert Madame Riri. This time, she’s come up with some common traits of foreigners who grow to love Japan based on her own observations from time spent abroad.

Do you find yourself conforming to any of the following patterns?

 

In English, we’ve got a lot of terms for lovers of Japan. We’re sure you’re all familiar with at least one Japanophile, whose deep interest in Japanese culture leads him or her to study Japanese and visit the country several times. Maybe you also know a “weeaboo/Wapanese,” who tries a little too hard to sound like he knows what he’s talking about and borders on the slightly obsessive side with his huge anime DVD collection. The term otaku has even made its way into the English lexicon, despite its negative connotations in Japanese. But before those people had any connection to or knowledge about Japan whatsoever, was there some kind of hint that would predict their later infatuation with the Land of the Rising Sun?

The following list by Madame Riri tries to answer just that. As you’re reading, remember that the list refers to people who don’t know much about Japanese culture yet, but if you were to, say, introduce them to some cultural aspect or bring them to Japan just once, then BAM!–the spark of love towards Nippon will grow by leaps and bounds.

Madame Riri also stresses that these items are to be taken with a grain of salt. This list is not meant to imply that every Japanese person shares these common features, nor that people who have these commonalities are guaranteed to fall in love with Japan. They’re just personal observations that she has noticed in many people who fit a general trend.

Enjoy her list!

 

1. They like one or more of the following: manga, anime, or video games.

Yep, let’s just get this one out of the way nice and early.

2. They are vegetarian. Or, they’re health conscious and take great care in what they eat.

We think what she’s trying to say here is that these people place a high value on fresh, seasonal food and take great pains with presentation.

 

▼A traditional Japanese breakfast

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3. They think that a society with men in charge is for the better. 

Despite slow progress, Japan remains a male-dominated society, with women largely expected to quit working once they start a family.

 

4. They think characters like Hello Kitty are adorable.

Along with that, they have ridiculously large collections of character goods, like one 29-year-old Brit Natasha Goldsworth:

 

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5. They harbor good feelings toward unassuming people,  even if their own list of career achievements is impressive.

Maintaining a sense of modesty is emphasized, as in Japanese culture.

 

6. They like polite people, and are personally always thanking people with a smile. 

Tied in with Japan’s culture of extreme hospitality, or omotenashi.

 

7. They would choose fish over meat, given the choice.

But that’s not to say they don’t go wild for yakiniku, either!

 

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8. They somehow feel at ease when they see shy people, or people who can’t express themselves well. 

 

9. They get irritated when others aren’t punctual or can’t keep promises. 

In other words, they’ll probably get along well with people from the country where station staff have mastered the seven-minute-art of cleaning the bullet train:

 

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10. They aren’t religious, but believe there’s a god out there somewhere. 

If asked, most Japanese people would say that they have no religious affiliation, though they do regularly participate in several Buddhist and Shinto (arguably more of a spirituality than a religion) practices.

On the other hand, Japan does have a comic about young Jesus and Buddha living together as roommates in modern Tokyo

 

11. They think that couples will do better if the women walks a little behind the man (metaphorically speaking). 

See #3 above.

 

12. They dislike parties that last for a long time. They’d rather go home early. 

Perhaps along the lines of Japanese work-related drinking culture (see nomikai), which is a necessary but usually time-restricted aspect of Japanese work culture.

 

▼A typical nomikai

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13. They often feel like shouting, “Don’t just talk about yourself but listen to others, too!” 

Group harmony is valued over individualism, perhaps?

 

14. They have slightly unconventional hobbies. They are probably seeking approval from somewhere. 

 

15. They live by a sense of the changing of the seasons–appropriate flowers are displayed during each month, only vegetables in-season are consumed, etc.

 

▼Extra points if they love cherry blossoms!

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16. They constantly check up on the latest technology.

 

17. They can’t not go to the latest popular travel spots.

 

Case in point: What happened to Mt. Fuji after becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site last year:

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18. They don’t get along with people who tend to think that America and Europe are the center of the world. 

 

19. They have a weak stomach. They often get stomachaches.

We’re not quite sure what she means by this one…

 

20. They enjoy taking baths–it’s the height of relaxation.

 

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21. They are skilled at working with their hands, such as when wrapping Christmas presents. 

Furoshiki add a nice touch to any present, don’t you think? 

 

22. They are often told that they are too serious.

The key word here is majime, which suggest a strong sense of earnest diligence.

 

23. They think people should be praised for working hard and long. 

 

24. They don’t like to smell sweaty, but they don’t like to use perfumes, either. Unscented is the best. However, they do enjoy sniffing a waft of fragrant shampoo.

 

▼We recommend Shiseido’s popular Tsubaki Shampoo, made with oil from the camellia flower.

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25. They often find themselves saying, “I’m busy,” or, “I don’t have time.”

 

26. They tend to be on the soft-spoken/taciturn side. 

Madame Riri is definitely referencing Japanese adults here, and not the crowds of squealing high school girls ubiquitous in Japan.

 

27. They are often called “kind” by others.

A bit vague…

 

28. They always wash their hands before eating when eating out. Or they kill germs with hand sanitizer.

Japanese people are very fond of cleanliness before eating. If you’ve ever been to Japan or to an authentic Japanese restaurant, you’ve probably noticed that the server provides you with a hot, wet towel (oshibori) to wipe your hands with before dining.

 

▼But the real question is, can any of you fold an oshibori bunny??

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29. They are economical and hate wasting things. 

There is also a very specific Japanese word for this trait–mottainai.

 

30. They think that small details are very important regarding business matters. They believe that the success or failure of something depends on what extent they have emphasized the particulars.  

So–have we got anyone humming “I think I’m turning Japanese yet? Your friends may need just a little nudge, and soon you’ll have all the enthusiastic travel companions you could ever want on your next trip to Japan!

 

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30 common characteristics of people who fall in love with Japan

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Tokyo Station’s top 5 breakfast spots

 

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RocketNews 24:

 

As one of Japan’s largest train stations, Tokyo Station is the central hub for many of the JR lines as well as the Shinkansen (bullet train). You can expect some standard grub in most stations, but Tokyo Station has plenty of food places that go beyond the basics. Before setting out on a trip, why not arrive a bit early and enjoy a delicious breakfast before boarding your train? It’s the perfect start to your adventure.

Here we introduce five of the best breakfast spots within the station itself:

 

  • Juicy fruit at Senbikiya

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For anyone who loves fruit for breakfast, you can’t go wrong with Senbikiya’s breakfast waffle set (600 yen/US$6).

Senbikiya is a specialist luxury fruit store, and it can get pretty pricey with one parfait setting you back over 2,000 yen ($20). But with the breakfast set you can experience the store’s sense of luxury without breaking the bank.

The waffle set includes fruit, yogurt, waffles, salad, and a drink. All this for only 600 yen! Unbelievable!

If you ask a Senbikiya fan what their favourite fruit is, a lot of people will probably reply with the cantaloupe (musk melon), and the waffle set comes with beautifully prepared slices of this delicious fruit. It’s sweet and juicy, and perfectly complemented by the rest of the light foods – recommended for anyone with a sweet tooth in the mornings!

<Kyobashi Senbikiya Tokyo Station  First Avenue Store>

■Breakfast time 8:30~11:00(Open until 20:30)
■Address Tokyo Station First Avenue B1F North Street
■TEL 03-3212-2517
■Holidays None
■Breakfast also available on weekends

 

  • Hearty noodles at Japan’s leading tsukemen restaurant

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Rokurinsha is one of Japan’s most famous tsukemen (noodles with separate dipping sauce) restaurants. Since opening on Tokyo Station’s Ramen Street in 2009, it has become one of the most popular stores and is always overflowing with people.

The best time to get into Rokurinsha is during the breakfast period between 7:30 and 10:00 a.m. (last orders at 9:45). You usually need to be prepared to wait for around an hour before getting a seat, but in the mornings you can enter in less than 30 minutes, or straight away if you’re really lucky.

There are two choices of ramen for breakfast: Morning Tsukemen (630 yen) and Deluxe Morning Tsukemen. The shop’s speciality is its noodle soup, a rich, thick concoction made from boiling tonkatsu (pork cutlet), katsuobushi (dried tuna flakes), and other ingredients together for 13 hours. The Morning Tsukemen soup is lighter and easy on the stomach, while still retaining its rich flavor, making it perfect for breakfast. Recommended for those needing a stamina boost before setting out on a grand adventure.

<Rokurinsha TOKYO>

■Breakfast time 7:30~10:00 (Last orders 9:45) ※Opening hours 11:00~22:30(Last orders 22:00)
■Address Tokyo Station First Avenue B1 Tokyo Ramen Street 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
■TEL 03-3286-0166
■Holidays None
■Breakfast also available on weekends

 

  • Traditional Japanese breakfast at Yaesu Hatsufuji

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Opening at 7am, Yaesu Hatsufuji is an izakaya (Japanese pub) that serves traditional Japanese breakfast sets.

They offer seven different kinds including fried salmon (550 yen), pork miso soup (500 yen), omelette (500 yen), and meat & tofu (530 yen). With so much choice it can be difficult to make up your mind, but the meat & tofu and fried ginger sets are popular with particularly hungry folks, while the fried salmon and omelette options are more popular with girls with smaller appetites.

Yaesu Hatsufuji uses the best ingredients, and uses them in abundance. Of course it’s also delicious, and the chef who skillfully prepares it will bring it to you himself, so you can enjoy it freshly made and piping hot.

It may be an izakaya, but the interior is bright and clean rather than dark and smoky, and girls don’t need to worry about going there on their own. Recommended for anyone wanting a traditional Japanese-style breakfast.

<Yaesu Hatsufuji Yaesu chikagai Store>

■Breakfast time 7:00~10:00 ※Opening hours 7:00~22:00(Last orders 21:30)
■Address Yaesu chikagai, 1-9-1 Yaesu, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
■TEL 03-3275-1676
■Holidays None
■Breakfast is also available on weekends

 

  • Hotdogs for breakfast?!

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Right next to the ticket gates for the Tohoku Joetsu Shinkansen, you’ll find a bunch of restaurants and bars. The Gransta North Court zone hosts 16 stores mostly sellingobento (Japanese lunch boxes) and sweets to take with you on the train. Standing out in the midst of them is Tokyo DOG, proudly displaying its range of hotdogs.

The hotdog you see in the photo above is the “Iwate Prefecture fried chicken cross hotdog”, released in commemoration of the renovation of Tokyo Station’s red brick station building in October 2012. Stamped into the bun are the Japanese characters for “Tokyo Station”. The meaty filling is drizzled with ponzu sauce (citrus-based soy sauce) and topped with grated daikon radish – sounds like an incredibly delicious creation! A hotdog may not sound like much, but they don’t skimp on the fillings here!

After purchase you can enjoy your hotdog in the communal North Court eat-in space.

Products except for the hotdogs are served cold for take-out, so for those who want something warm for breakfast we recommend the “Tokyo Grill Hotdog” with a hot grilled wiener sandwiched between the bread (420 yen).

<Tokyo DOG>

■Opening hours 6:30~22:30
■Address North Court, Tokyo Station Gransta Dining, 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
■TEL 03-3217-4144
■Holidays None
■Breakfast also available on weekends

 

  • Specialist soups at Misogen

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The above photo might look like cloudy coffee, but it’s actually shijimi clam soup!

This is the shijimi espresso (250 yen), served at Misogen, a specialist miso soup store found in KITTE which opened in Tokyo Station in March 2013.

If you want the clam espresso then you’d better get their early, because this delicacy is limited to only 30 cups per day. It’s very popular and sells out early, so arriving at opening time (10 am) is probably your best bet. According to the store, it’s the dark-brown miso paste that really draws out the flavour of the shijimi clams which come from Lake Shinji in Shimane Prefecture. The deliciousness of the shijimi is concentrated into a 70ml espresso cup, so take your time savouring it.

Anyone who loves miso soup has to visit Misogen, and try and get their hands on theshijimi espresso!

<Misogen KITTE GRANCHE Store>

■Opening times (eat-in) 10:00~20:30(Monday – Saturday)、10:00~19:30(Sundays & holidays)
■Address KITTE B1F, 2-7-2 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
■TEL 03-6256-0831
■Holidays January 1st only
■Breakfast also available on weekends

All the above shops are open on weekends as well as weekdays, so whatever day you’re travelling you can be sure of somewhere to full up in the morning. No need to wander aimlessly around the station in search of something more palatable than cold combini food – any of these five restaurants will set you up with a delicious start to your trip.

 

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Tokyo Station’s top 5 breakfast spots

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Japan’s real and anime world technological icons combine with this Shinkansen (Bullet Train) transforming robot

 

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RocketNews 24:

 

You could argue that the Shinkansen is the greatest engineering marvel Japan has ever put together. Amazingly fast, the bullet train is also bulletproof in its reliability and punctuality, with almost no delays and not a single accident since the high speed rail service was opened in 1964.

To find a much cooler piece of Japanese technology, you have to go into the world of science fiction and anime robots. Now, some clever designers have put two and two together and created a transforming mecha character based on Japan’s fastest train.

The annual International Tokyo Toy Show is going on right now, and we stopped by to check out some of the 35,000 items being displayed by the 157 exhibiting companies. While there, we came across the booth for jeki, a promotional subsidiary of Japan Railways East.

The team at jeki struck gold with its previous creation, the Suica Penguin who serves as the primary mascot for JR East. You can find the loveable aquatic bird on prepaid JR cards and posters, not to mention in the display case of cake shops on occasion.

 

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But while the Suica Penguin is undeniably cute, he’s not exactly cool. Stepping up to claim that adjective is the new character created under jeki’s Project E5.

 

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The robot is modeled after the E5 Series Shinkansen, which went into use in 2011 on the Tohoku Shinkansen line that connects Tokyo and Shin Aomori Stations. Aside from its sleek lines, the robot checks off two important boxes. First, it transforms.

 

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And second, it looks awesome posing.

 

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The company hasn’t given away much in details about the character’s backstory, so we don’t know yet whether or not the powerful looking machine occasionally has to change into combat mode and fight off alien invaders, all the while continuing to carry its load of business and pleasure travelers. Moreover, the giant-sized model shown here is still just a preliminary concept, although if you ask us, it looks good enough that jeki’s artists can call it a day.

 

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The jeki representative we spoke with said the long-term plan is to produce and sell figures of the character, so if you’re a model train or mecha toy collector, you might want to start clearing off some shelf space. In the meantime, the concept statue will be on display as part of the Tokyo Toy Show at Big Sight on Odaiba from now until June 16.

 

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 Japan’s real and anime world technological icons combine with this Shinkansen (Bullet Train) transforming robot

 

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Japan Railways (JR) unveils amazing luxury train

 

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RocketNews 24:

 

Last spring, Japan Railways, operator of Japan’s fabled bullet trains, unveiled its design for a new Shinkansen that will whisk travelers to northeastern Japan as they relax at the onboard foot baths. Then came the announcement of an overnight train servicing Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima with amenities rivaling those of a fancy hotel.

Now, it’s east Japan’s turn, as JR East has released new images of its upcoming luxury sleeper train for the region, plus its passenger suites that look genuinely large enough to live in.

JR originally shared its plans for the train last year, when famed train and auto designer Kiyoyuki Okuyama, who also goes by the name Ken, came onboard the project. Okuyama, who also headed the design of the footbath-equipped Shinkansen mentioned above, has pegged the design theme as “a train where passengers can enjoy the flow of time and space.”

What this seems to translate to, in concrete terms, is carriages that make use of extremely large windows to provide occupants with the widest possible view of the outside landscape. At either end of the 10-car train is an observation area with sofas and natural light streaming in from all directions.

 

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Of course, nothing ruins your tranquil contemplation of the beauty of nature like the sound of your stomach growling, so of course there’s a dining car.

 

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▼ Enjoy a tranquil dinner under the stars while still hurtling towards your destination.

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There’s also a lounge, if you’re looking for something lighter than a full meal.

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The remaining six cars are used for guest rooms. Five of these contain three suites each, all of which include private bathroom and shower, and look to be a far cry from a packed Tokyo commuter train in terms of comfort.

 

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The jewel in this rail-riding crown, though, is the centra car which houses the deluxe suites.

 

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This split-level room includes two beds, a living room seating area, and even a bathtub. Honestly, if this was an apartment in Tokyo, you’d have no problem at all finding someone willing to sign the lease. The lack of a fixed address would make receiving mail tricky, though.

 

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This isn’t even all the sleeper has to offer, as the deluxe suite car will also contain a separate, single-level guest room, although no images of it have been released yet.

JR East’s new pride and joy is expected to go into service in spring of 2017, so plan your trips (or apartment hunting) accordingly.

Sources: JinMy Navi NewsJR East

 

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Race against the clock: Shinkansen staff have just 7 minutes to get bullet train ready to ride

Japan’s shinkansen, or bullet train in the West, was the world’s first high-speed train running at 200km per hour, and today the Tōkaidō Shinkansen is the world’s most used high-speed rail line. Impressively, even with over 120,000 trains running on the line each year, the average delay time is a mere 36 seconds!

Part of the reason the bullet train system can run as smoothly as it does is thanks to the ‘hospitality group’ working behind the scenes of the sleek, futuristic facades of these famous trains. These cleaning crews are charged with covering every inch of a train’s interior when it arrives at its final stop and preparing it for the next wave of customers–and they have just seven minutes to do it.

JR East’s rail service company is known as TESSEI, and it is responsible for the cleaning of the bullet trains when they have come to a stop at Tokyo Station. There are around 820 staff members including full-time staff and part-timers known as ‘partners’. The average employee age is 52, and around 50 percent of them are women, so people often talk affectionately of the TESSEI ‘obaa-sans’ or ‘grannies’.

Bullet trains shuttle in and out of the platforms at Tokyo station 210 times each day. TESSEI staff are divided into teams composed of 22 people, and with 11 teams of cleaners taking turns on the platform, which translates into each TESSEI employee cleaning around 20 trains per day.

Despite not being particularly glamorous work, the group has received a lot of media attention over the years, and have been called Japan’s ‘strongest team’ by the Nikkei Business magazine.

Trains spend only 12 minutes at the station in Tokyo. That includes two minutes for passengers to disembark and two more for the next to get on, leaving only seven minutes for cleaning.

One person is in charge of one car with around 100 seats, and the whole car must be made spotlessly clean during those crucial seven minutes. It’s the same for the toilet cleaning staff – no matter how dirty it is, they have to have it sparkling again within the time limit. And lest we forget, the shinkansen aren’t like inner-city trains — passengers often travel for hours at a time, getting settled for the long ride, eating meals, snacking, reading newspapers, and generally making a bit of a mess.

The strict seven-minute deadline means that the work is broken down into smaller blocks that have to be completed in record time: 1.5 minutes spent picking up trash, 30 seconds rotating the seats (some can be swivelled around so that larger groups can face one another), four minutes sweeping and cleaning, and a one-minute check.

Those crucial seven minutes

0:00~1:30 First check the luggage racks on both sides, then look down the gaps between the seats for any forgotten items. As the seats are being turned to face the direction of travel, run down to the door at the other end sweeping out dropped trash into the aisle along the way.

1:30~4:30 On the way back up the aisle, pull down and check the blinds, and at the same time pull out the seat-back trays and wipe everything down, and change the seat covers if they’re dirty.

4:30~6:30 There’s now only two minutes left. Take a broom and sweep up all the trash brought out into the aisle in one go.

Everything above is expected to be completed in about six minutes. The official time limit is seven minutes, but it’s often crowded and takes longer for passengers to disembark, so they rarely have the luxury of using the full seven. This almost superhuman feat is known in Japanese as the ’7-minute shinkansen theatre’.